Pieces People Ask For/Aunt Parson's Story
AUNT PARSONS'S STORY.
I told Hezekiah—that's my man. People mostly call him Deacon Parsons, but he never gets any deaconing from me. We were married—"Hezekiah and Amariah"—that's going on forty years ago, and he's jest Hezekiah to me, and nothin' more.
Well, as I was saying, says I, "Hezekiah, we aren't right. I am sure of it." And he said, "Of course not. We are poor sinners, Amy; all poor sinners." And I said, "Hezekiah, this 'poor-sinner' talk has gone on long enough. I suppose we are poor sinners, but I don't see any use of being-mean sinners; and there's one thing I think is real mean."
It was jest after breakfast: and, as he felt poorly, he hedn't gone to the shop yet; and so I had this little talk with him to sort o'chirk him up. He knew what 1 was comin' to, for we hed had the subject up before. It was our little church. He always said, "The poor people, and what should we ever do'?" And I always said, "We never shall do nothin' unless we try." And so, when I brought the matter up in this way, he just began bitin' his toothpick, and said, "What's up now? Who's mean? Amariah, we oughtn't to speak evil one of another." Hezekiah always says "poor sinners," and doesn't seem to mind it; but when I occasionally say "mean sinners," he somehow gits oneasy. But I was started, and 1 meant to free my mind.
So I said, says I, "I was goin' to confess our sins. Dan'l confessed for all his people, and I was confessin' for all our little church.
"Truth is," says I, "ours is alius called one of the 'feeble churches,' and I am tried about it. I've raised seven children, and at fourteen months old every boy and girl of 'em could run alone. And our church is fourteen years old," says I; "and it can't take a step yet without somebody to hold on by. The Board helps us; and General Jones, good man, he helps us,—helps too much, I think,—and so we live along; but we don't seem to get strong. Our people draw their rations every year as the Indians do up at the agency, and it doesn't seem sometimes as if they ever thought of doing any thing else.
"They take it so easy!" I said. "That's what worries me. I don't suppose we could pay all expenses; but we might act as if we wanted to, and as if we meant to do all we can.
"I read," says I, "last week about the debt of the Board; and this week, as I understand." says I, "our application is going in for another year, and no particular effort to do any better; and it frets me. I can't sleep nights, and I can't take comfort Sundays. I've got to feelin' as if we were a kind of perpetual paupers. And that was what I meant when I said, 'It is real mean!' I suppose I said it a little sharp," says I, "but I'd rather be sharp than flat any day; and if we don't begin to stir ourselves, we shall be flat enough before long, and shall deserve to be. It grows on me. It has jest, been 'Board, Board, Board,' for fourteen years, and I'm tired of it. I never did like boardin'," says I; "and even if we were poor, I believe we might do something toward settin' up housekeepin' for ourselves.
"Well, there's not many of us—about a hundred, I believe; and some of these is women-folks, and some is jest-girls and boys. And we all have to work hard, and live close; but," says I, "let us show a disposition, if nothing more. Hezekiah, if there's any spirit left in us, let us show some sort of a disposition."
And Hezekiah had his toothpick in his teeth, and looked down at his boots, and rubbed his chin, as he always does when he's goin' to say somethin'. "I think there's some of us that shows a disposition."
Of course I understood that hit, but I kep' still. I kep' right on with my argument; and I said, "Yes, and a pretty bad disposition it is. It's a disposition to let ourselves be helped when we ought to be helping ourselves. It's a disposition to lie still and let somebody carry us. And we are growing up cripples—only we don't grow.
"'Kiah," says I, "do you hear me?" Sometimes when I want to talk a little he jest shets his eyes, and begins to rock himself back and forth in the old arm-chair; and he was doin' that now. So I said, "'Kiah, do you hear?" And he said, "Some!" and I went on. "I've got a proposition," says I. And he sort o' looked up, and said, "Hev you? Well, between a disposition and a proposition, I guess the proposition might be better."
He's awful sarcrostic, sometimes. But I wasn't goin' to get riled, nor thrown off the track; so I jest said, "Yes; do you and I git two shillin's' worth apiece, a week, out o' that blessed little church of ourn, do you think?" says I. "Cos, if we do, I want to give two shillin's a week to keep it goin'; and I thought maybe you could do as much." So he said he guessed we could stand that; and I said, "That's my proposition, and I mean to see if we can't find somebody else that'll do the same. It'll show disposition, anyway."
"Well, I suppose you'll hev your own way," says he: "you most always do." And I said, "Isn't it most allers a good way?" Then I brought out my subscription paper. I had it all ready. I didn't jest know how to shape it, but I knew it was something about "the sums set opposite our names;" and so I drawed it up, and took my chances. "You must head it," says I, "because you're the oldest deacon; and I must go on next, because I am the deacon's wife; and then I'll see some of the rest of the folks."
So' Kiah sot down, and put on his specs, and took his pen, but did not write. "What's the matter?" says I. And he said, "I'm sort o' 'shamed to subscribe two shillin's. I never signed so little as that for any thing. I used to give that to the circus when I was nothin' but a boy, and I ought to do more than that to support the gospel. Two shillin' a week! Why, it's only a shillin' a sermon, and all the prayer-meetin's throwed in. I can't go less than fifty cents, I am sure." So down he went for fifty cents; and then I signed for a quarter, and then my sunbonnet went onto my head pretty lively; and says I, "Hezekiah, there's some cold potato in the pantry, and you know where to find the salt; so, if I am not back by dinner-time, don't be bashful, help yourself." And I started.
I called on the Smith family first. I felt sure of them. And they were just happy. Mr. Smith signed, and so did Mrs. Smith; and Long John, he came in while we were talkin', and put his name down; and then old Grandma Smith, she didn't want to be left out; so there was four of 'em. I've allers found it a great thing in any good enterprise to enlist the Smith family. There's a good many of 'em. Next, I called on the Joslyns, and next on the Chapins, and then on the Widdy Chadwick, and so I kept on.
I met a little trouble once or twice, but not much. There was Fussy Furber ; and bein' trustee, he thought I was out of my spear, he said; and he wanted it understood that such work belonged to the trustees. "To be sure," says I: "I'm glad I've found it out. I wish the trustees had discovered that a leetle sooner." Then there was sister Puffy that's got the asthma. She thought we ought to be lookin' after "the sperritooalities." She said we must get down before the Lord. She didn't think churches could be run on money. But I told her I guessed we should be jest as spiritual to look into our pocketbooks a little, and I said it was a shame to be 'tarnally beggin' so of the Board.
She looked dredful solemn when I said that, and I almost felt as I'd been committin' profane language. But I hope the Lord will forgive me if I took any thing in vain. I did not take my call in vain, I tell you. Mrs. Puffy is good, only she allus wanted to talk so pious; and she put down her two shillin's, and then hove a sigh. Then I found the boys at the cooper-shop, and got seven names there at one lick; and when the list began to grow, people seemed ashamed to say no; and I kept gainin' till I had jest an even hundred, and then I went home.
Well, it was pretty well towards candle-light when I got back, and I was that tired I didn't know much of any thing. I've washed, and I've scrubbed, and I've baked, and I've cleaned house, and I've biled soap, and I've moved; and I 'low that a'most any one of that sort of thing is a little exhaustin'. But put your bakin' and movin' and bilin' soap all together, and it won't work out as much genuine tired soul and body as one day with a subscription paper to support the gospel. So when I sort o' dropped into a chair, and Hezekiah said, "Well?" I was past speakin'; and I put my check apron up to my face as I hadn't done since I was a young, foolish girl, and cried. I don't know what I felt so bad about: I don't know as I did feel bad. But I felt cry, and I cried. And 'Kiah, seein' how it was, felt kind o' sorry for me, and set some tea a-steepin'; and when I had had my drink with weepin', I felt better, I handed him the subscription paper, and he looked it over as if he didn't expect any thing; but soon he began saying, "I never! I never!" And I said, "Of course you didn't: you never tried. How much is it?"—"Why, don't you know?" says he. "No," I said: "I ain't quick in figures, and I hadn't time to foot it up. I hope it will make us out this year three hundred dollars or so."
"Amy," says he, "you're a prodigy—a prodigal, I may say—and you don't know it. A hundred names at two shillin' each gives us twenty-five dollars a Sunday. Some of 'em may fail, but most of 'em is good ; and there is ten, eleven, thirteen, that sign fifty cents. That'll make up what fails. That paper of yourn'll give us thirteen hundred dollars a year!" I jumped up like I was shot. "Yes," he says, "we sha'n't need any thing this year from the Board. This church, for this year at any rate, is self-supporting."
We both sot down and kep' still a minute, when I said kind o' softly, "Hezekiah," says I, "isn't it about time for prayers?" I was just chokin'; but, as he took down the Bible, he said, "I guess we'd had better sing somethin'." I nodded like, and he just struck in. We often sing at prayers in the morning; but now it seemed like the Scripter that says, "He giveth songs in the night." 'Kiah generally likes the solemn tunes, too; and we sing "Show pity, Lord," a great deal; and this mornin' we had sung "Hark! from the tombs a doleful sound," 'cause 'Kiah was not feelin' very well, and we wanted to chirk up a little.
So I just waited to see what metre he'd strike to-night; and would you believe it? I didn't know that he knew any sech tune. But off he started on "Joy to the world, the Lord is come." I tried to catch on; but he went off lickerty-switch, like a steam-engine, and I couldn't keep up. I was partly laughin' to see 'Kiah go it, and partly crying again, my heart was so full; so I doubled up some of the notes, and jumped over the others; and so we safely reached the end.
But, I tell you, Hezekiah prayed. He allers prays well; but this was a bran' new prayer, exactly suited to the occasion. And when Sunday come, and the minister got up and told what had been done, and said, "It is all the work of one good woman, and done in one day," I just got scared, and wanted to run. And when some of the folks shook hands with me after meetin', and said, with tears in their eyes, how I'd saved the church ; and all that, I came awful nigh gettin' proud. But, as Hezekiah says, "we're all poor sinners;" and so I choked it back. But I am glad I did it; and I don't believe our church will ever go boarding any more. Presbyterian Journal.